MORRISON – Attention parents: You are not alone.
A new support group aims to help parents and other caregivers of children with special needs find resources, build friendships and find comfort and relief among others in similar situations.
Jeanne Adams and Deeny Siefken of Morrison, both grandparents of children with special needs, such as Asperger's syndrome, Tourette's syndrome and even attention deficit disorder, started Because Children are Special out of frustration.
Both women, who often care for their grandchildren, sought help in finding professionals – doctors, counselors and others – and in working with the schools. They also wanted camaraderie.
"So many of us think there are no other parents out there going through the same thing, even though there are," Adams said. "This is a good way for them to get together."
The group is for parents and other caregivers, such as grandparents or aides, of children with special needs of all kinds – from behavioral problems to physical disabilities to health issues, such as asthma or diabetes.
Adams and Siefken plan to cover a variety of topics, including dealing with behavioral issues at home and at school, raising siblings of children with special needs and increasing public understanding of children with special needs.
The women recently partnered with the Community That Cares project to access more resources that could be beneficial to families. Community That Cares is a grant-funded effort of more than 50 community organizations in Lee, Ogle, Carroll and Whiteside counties to build an integrated network of care for children.
Tamara Wolf, the parent and family coordinator at Sinnissippi Centers, which is executing the project, is putting on a Parent Cafe-style event at the next group meeting Monday.
Parents will rotate from table to table and answer a question at each one; others at the table are not allowed to interrupt, offer commentary or give advice.
"The question-and-answer model is very empowering," Wolf said. "They feel validated because the questions are deep and thought-provoking and the answers are completely their own."
Parents also will be encouraged to meet someone new, someone whose answer to a question piqued their interest or moved them in some way.
"It's just huge being able to talk to someone else whose kids are dealing with unique issues," Wolf said.
Adams and Siefken hope to grow the group to include more parents and offer not just workshop-type events, but also fun family events.
Support Group meets Monday
What: Because Children Are Special support group
When: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Monday
Where: Southside Elementary School, 100 Academic Drive, Morrison
Services: A light meal and child care
RSVP: Tamara Wolf, 815-625-0013, ext. 111
"We don't want to be advocates," Siefken said. "We just want to get the information out there, let them know where they can go to get help ... and remind them that they are not alone."